ANN E. PANTAZIS, executrix, 
MACK TRUCKS, INC., & another. 
Heard: September 12, 2017.
action commenced in the Superior Court Department on April
case against defendant Parker-Hannifin Corporation was heard
by Raffi N. Yessayan, J., on a motion for summary judgment,
and entry of judgment was ordered by Shannon Frison, J.; the
case against defendant Mack Trucks, Inc., was heard by Daniel
M. Wrenn, J., on a subsequent motion for summary judgment,
and entry of judgment was ordered by him.
J. Brunelle for the plaintiff.
William J. Dailey, III, for Mack Trucks, Inc.
Richard L. Neumeier for Parker-Hannifin Corporation.
Present: Milkey, Hanlon, & Shin, JJ.
Fidrych owned a dump truck that he used to haul soil. On the
morning of April 13, 2009, Fidrych was seen at his farm
working on the truck. Later that day, he was found dead
underneath it, with his clothing caught up in a spinning
universal joint (U-joint) that was part of the mechanical
system used to tilt the "dump body" of the truck.
The medical examiner identified the cause of death as
accidental asphyxiation. In her capacity as executrix of
Fidrych's estate, his widow, Ann Pantazis, filed a
wrongful death action in the Superior Court. She sued, among
others, Mack Trucks, Inc. (Mack Trucks), which manufactured
the original, stripped-down version of the truck, and
Parker-Hannifin Corporation (Parker-Hannifin), which had
acquired the assets of Dana Corporation (Dana). Dana
manufactured a piece of equipment known as a "power
take-off" (PTO), which was another part of the system
used to tilt the dump body of Fidrych's truck. In two
separate summary judgment rulings, different Superior Court
judges ruled in favor of each of these defendants. We affirm.
1987, Fidrych purchased the truck from Winnipesaukee Truck
P&T, an independent Mack Trucks dealer, which had
purchased it from Mack Trucks the previous year. At the time
of Fidrych's purchase, the truck was what is known as an
"incomplete vehicle." That meant that the truck had
a chassis, cab, and engine, but it lacked essential
components (and associated equipment) necessary to carry out
the truck's ultimate intended function. Through the
installation of additional components, incomplete vehicles
can be outfitted for a wide variety of uses. For example, an
incomplete vehicle can be outfitted for everything from a
flatbed truck to a fire truck.
purchasing the truck as an incomplete vehicle, Fidrych had it
transformed into a dump truck. This involved installing a
dump body, as well as a mechanical system (auxiliary power
system) for tilting that body. The outfitting of the
incomplete vehicle occurred decades before the accident, and
it is not known who performed that work.
auxiliary power system used the truck's transmission as
the source of its power, employing a series of components
that connected the transmission to a hydraulic pump. The
transmission that Mack Trucks provided in the incomplete
vehicle was designed so that it could be connected to a PTO,
and in this case, a PTO manufactured by Dana was added. Once
installed, a PTO is a fully enclosed piece of equipment
except for a short metal post that extends from the PTO case.
The post spins when the PTO is engaged, and the spinning post
can be used to power many different types of equipment. In
the particular system installed in Fidrych's truck, the
PTO was connected to an exposed auxiliary drive shaft, which
in turn was connected to a U-joint (also exposed). Finally,
the U-joint was connected to a hydraulic pump that drove the
piston that raised and lowered the dump body.
Fidrych's accident illustrates, having an exposed
auxiliary drive shaft and U-jointpresents serious potential
dangers, e.g., to someone working underneath the truck while
the PTO is engaged. It is uncontested that this system could
have been designed and installed in a manner that alleviated
such risks. For example, as the summary judgment record
reveals, the need for the exposed auxiliary drive shaft and
U-joint could have been obviated by attaching a hydraulic
pump directly to the PTO. In addition, guards could have been
installed to shield the moving parts. The plaintiff makes no
claim that either of the defendants here had any role in
designing or installing the auxiliary power system (beyond
designing the individual components that each manufactured
time that Mack Trucks sold the incomplete vehicle and Dana
sold the PTO, each manufacturer provided various warnings
about risks presented by the future use of a completed
vehicle. Specifically, the owner's manual that Mack
Trucks provided for the truck included a warning about the
use of PTOs and associated equipment. As the plaintiff
highlights, the warning was set forth approximately midway
through a 112-page manual. Its placement aside, the warning,
set off in a box labeled "WARNING" and accompanied
by triangles containing exclamation points, stated in bold
lettering as follows:
"Power take-off (P.T.O.) units and their related
equipment can be very dangerous. Any P.T.O. installation,
repair or replacement should include a warning lamp which
indicates P.T.O. engagement. The lamp must be located ...